If you're new to the Netherlands, the process of going to the doctor might well be confusing and quite different from your previous country. Amsterdammer, Lana Huf-Germain's, quick guide to some of the distinctive features of the Dutch healthcare system may help clarify.
Some of the most common questions newcomers to the Netherlands have about the Dutch healthcare system include:
- What’s the role of the Doctor’s Assistant?
- What’s an Inloopspreekuur (walk-in hour)?
- When do you contact the Huisartsen Post ( GP Post)?
- Do you have to get a referral for everything?
The inloopspreekuur is the time of day when medical treatment is available without an appointment; they are usually early in the morning, but ask your practice for its specific hours. Be aware that an inloopspreekuur meeting will be shorter than a regular doctor's appointment.
Yes: acute problems that need quick attention, but are not life-threatening.
Examples: woke up with extreme ear pain / infected eye / a painful splinter.
No: non-acute complaints or referral requests.
Yes: providing the first line of support, small first aid problems, advice, renewing prescriptions.
Examples: ear checkup / blood work / vaccinations / pap smear.
No: new prescriptions or referral requests.
Yes: all health-related problems, new prescriptions and referrals.
Examples: all physical and mental health problems; adult, child, and newborn.
No: extreme life-threatening emergencies.
The Huisartsenpost is for medical care available after regular doctor's hours, from 17:00 - 07:00.
Yes: acute but minor emergencies that can’t wait until the next day.
Examples: child swallowed hazardous substance / small physical accidents / extremely high fever.
No: anything that can wait until the next day's inloopspreekuur.
At Home Visit
Yes: patients who are too sick to leave the house and have a small emergency.
Examples: post-childbirth with sudden high fever / torn ligaments/seizure with fever.
* Please note the doctor will only examine the patient and will call the ambulance if necessary.
No: flu, fever, or anyone living more than 10 minutes from the practice.
Yes: life-threatening emergencies or referrals via your family doctor.
Examples: heart attack, baby turning blue, serious physical accidents.
No: minor physical accidents, sprained ankles, anything without a referral.
* Please note if you visit a hospital Spoedeisende Hulp (SEH) (Emergency Room) without a referral, you will be charged for the full amount.
Otolaryngologist (Ear / Nose/ Throat)
You will need to make an appointment with your family doctor to get a referral to a specialist. Without a referral, you will be charged for the full amount by your insurance company.
A temperature of 38°C (100.4ºF) and above is considered a fever. In the Netherlands, even with a temperature as high as 40°C-41°C (104ºF-105.8ºF), not accompanied by any other symptoms, the most common medical advice is to monitor the child closely and to keep them hydrated, cool, and comfortable.
The rationale being that even a high fever is not dangerous in itself, as long as the child is not presenting with any other symptoms. A fever is the body's healthy response to infection.
Still, always call your doctor or the huisartsenpost, if you are worried about your child's symptoms.
Do call the doctor immediately if:
- baby is younger than three months
- child has a heart or lung disease or diabetes mellitus
- child is using medication which affects their immunity
- child has a compromised immune system
- child missed a vaccination
- child has laboured or shallow breathing
- child cries inconsolably, is listless, floppy or unusually sleepy
- child vomits a few times within an hour
- child does not want to drink anything and does not urinate
- child has a rash or red spots which do not disappear if you press on the skin or press a glass against the rash.
- child behaves out of character
- In the Netherlands, women over the age of 30 receive an official reminder for a pap smear every 5 years; an annual check is not covered by your insurance.
- A fever is not considered a valid reason to stay indoors. If your child has a fever, you are allowed to take them to the doctor if the doctor or doctor’s assistant considers it necessary.
- In the Netherlands, doctors do not readily prescribe antibiotics. The belief is that frequent use of antibiotics increases the body’s immunity to them, thus diminishing their effectiveness in the long run.
- A seizure, although it may look frightening, is not considered life-threatening, and for this, you can call your family doctor.
- If, however, your child is turning blue or has white lips – CALL 112.
- If your child has a fever, it’s important to dress them lightly so the heat can escape, but make sure that their hands and feet are not cold. The hands and feet will conduct the heat out, if they are cold – the heat will rise to their heads.
- If you hurt or fracture a ligament or bone, whether it’s broken, twisted or sprained – always ice the injury to reduce swelling.
- If an x-ray is required, a clear image is possible if the swelling's gone down.
Lana Huf-Germain is a born and bred Amsterdammer. She understands the difficulties faced by international families with no grasp of the language or history, and the extra problems this brings to raising a family in Amsterdam. She started Amsterdam Family Assistance to help families new to the Netherlands overcome these barriers and make them feel at home.